Ligamentum flavum

The ligamentum flavum is a yellow-colored ligament that connects the vertebrae in the neck and back. This ligament provides protection to the neural elements of the spine and provides stability by preventing excess motion between vertebrae.

Not only is the ligamentum flavum the strongest ligament in the spine, but its size and shape adapts to the body’s movements. For instance, this ligament stretches to provide the spinal canal with more room when sitting or leaning forward. When standing or leaning back, it provides less room for the spinal nerves because it is shorter and thicker.

Changes in the ligamentum flavum

The components of the spine change and wear down over time, due to the natural aging process. The neck and back are especially susceptible to these changes because they are responsible for supporting the majority of the body’s weight and movements.

Over time, the ligamentum flavum can lose strength and elasticity, causing it to thicken and buckle toward the spinal column. When this happens, a patient can develop spinal stenosis (or a narrowing of the spinal canal), a sometimes painful condition. If the ligamentum flavum buckles to the point that it compresses a spinal nerve, a patient may experience the following symptoms of spinal stenosis:

  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Localized pain
  • Radiating pain (depending on the location of the spinal stenosis, the pain could radiate into the shoulders, arms, ribs or legs)

Due to the dynamic nature of the ligamentum flavum, symptoms may worsen when standing or leaning back since the ligament naturally provides less room for the spinal canal in this state.

Treatments for ligamentum flavum conditions

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should contact your physician or back specialist. A number of treatment options are available, and a physician can help tailor a plan that is specific to your needs. This plan may include the some of the following conservative treatments:

  • Physical therapy
  • Yoga and stretching
  • Massage therapy
  • Pain medication

In some cases, spine surgery may be recommended to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve that is causing your pain and symptoms. This can be achieved with the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.

Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain while offering a lower risk of complication and a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery. We can review your MRI report or CT scan and help guide you along the best path to regain your quality of life.